The Lockdown Diaries 12: The Absence Of An Umbrella
Doctors and nurses have no time to mess about; you listen carefully, you obey and if complications ensue it’s probably because you haven’t followed their instructions properly. I found myself in this situation after discovering I had been given 10 ampoules of salt water and some rubber grommets I didn’t know what to do with.
The problem is that ‘there is no umbrella’.
There’s usually a ‘care umbrella’ marshalling you through the traumatic parts of your treatment, and in the current situation that doesn’t exist. The NHS doesn’t kick you out the door once they’ve bunged you full of meds, their staff assiduously follow up but they don’t cosset. That’s what your loved ones are for. The NHS gives you the access you need. They provide the tools and it’s your job to apply them.
So I need to listen more carefully now. Bad news is usually laid out nice and clearly, but is wisely revealed to you in stages. When my treatment ends the hardest part begins. Over the next two to three weeks everything gets worse. When doctors tell you it’s ‘challenging’ and that some people ‘decide not to continue’ (what with, living?) you take more notice. They see the exact same pattern repeated hundreds of times every month but it’s completely new to most patients. Whose advice are you going to take?
So I list the problems. Emergency contacts. Pain management. Physical issues. Infection. Movement. Sleep. Psychological mood. And the thing we don’t talk about – the odds. Because why speculate?
Displacement therapy works for me, so I fall back on books and films. Given that my neural responses aren’t up to writing a book at the moment the Netflix World Cinema section gets a smashing but is very quickly exhausted. Home entertainment companies, we don’t all want to watch teenagers fight robots. You make some great shows but I can’t watch anything else set in an Ohio high school – I feel like I went to one. I grew up steeped in Americana. I remember Lucille Ball’s maiden name on ‘The I Love Lucy’ show was McGillicuddy, for God’s sake. I was freaked out when Darrin changed actors on ‘Bewitched’ and nobody mentioned it.
So those are the most obvious problems with the Extreme Risk/Lockdown Combo. Now I should add the upsides.
After 30 years of existing on regular exercise and a high-fibre Mediterranean diet with daily fish I am now as listless as a spayed cat and have to switch to the kind of food I have only ever seen on Coronation Street.
Mash. Peas. Sausage rolls. Spaghetti Hoops, whatever they are. Gravy. I sent the Husband to buy a loaf of white sliced bread and got a Gail’s sourdough walnut and rosemary loaf back. ‘Well obviously I’m not going to buy white bread,’ he explained, looking mortified. This from someone whose idea of a plain supper last night was tempura courgette flowers with fennel. That’s pushing it, even for North London. Look in your cupboard and count how many types of oil you have. We have seven. Although we have a potato drawer that has never been opened.
As a result, overnight I have ballooned. This is apparently a Good Thing as I will soon be unable to eat. Late last night I scrabbled around and found a tin of baked bans (not Heinz, obvs, Duchy Organic), greedily emptying them over some non-white bread that I’m pretending is Sunblest. I ate it like a whipped dog in a corner, guiltily glancing around.
I am salivating at the thought of the ultimate forbidden patient foodstuff – ready meals. I think you just need a microwave and a spork. You don’t even need a plate. Or teeth. I’ll start calling lunch dinner and dinner tea, and get totally confused about whether supper even has a status anymore.
Coming next, drawstring day pants and watching ‘Repair Shop’. It’s going to get ugly.